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File:MarshalGeorgyZhukov 8757.jpg


A military (or police) officer wears on his person an improbably large number of medals and other decorations for their age/rank/duration of service. Forms this trope can take include...

  1. An officer that has so many medals nailed to his uniform that one would expect him to be a ranking general-grade officer, but he turns out to be only a field- or junior-grade officer. And yes, he earned them all the hard way. In other words, someone who is Colonel Badass / Majorly Awesome / The Captain that refuses to be promoted off the field, and has the medals as proof of his numerous Badass achievements.
  2. An actual general who has more medals than a normal general could ever earn in a lifetime [2]. Might be because he's a Four-Star Badass who engaged in numerous campaigns, surviving each of which would be considered a miracle in and of itself.
  3. A Miles Gloriosus who habitually takes undeserved credit or enjoys nepotism can superficially come across as a either of the above.
  4. A Phony Veteran who collects "chest candy" that he never earned and just wants to look impressive.

Often found on The Generalissimo. See also Bling of War.

Examples:



Films

  • In Seven Days in May (though it's worth mentioning that the amount of real estate on his chest isn't ludicrous, and is probably a reasonable amount for someone of his rank):

 Sen. Prentice: You make me think that fruit salad on your chest is for neutrality, evasiveness, and fence-straddling.

Col. "Jiggs" Casey: On the contrary, Senator, they're standard awards for cocktail courage and dinner-table heroism. I thought you'd invented them.

  • Clint Eastwood's character, Gunnery Sergeant Highway, in Heartbreak Ridge is an example of this.
  • Minister of War Herring in The Great Dictator, after he ran out of space on his chest, they started pinning new medals on his back.


Literature

 The Chief of the Army was wearing so many medal-ribbons they covered the entire front of his tunic on both sides and spread down on to his trousers as well.

  • In Komarr The local Chief of ImpSec figured out that Lord Auditor Vorkosigan wasn't just a courier during his military career.

  "In the accessible part of your records, you have medals at five times the density of the next most decorated courier in ImpSec history."

    • In Memory, Miles actually dons all of his medals for the first time.

  "Dear God, Miles! I've never before seen you come the Vor Lord with intent."

      • In the Memory example, Miles had two major medals... from both governments that were involved in previous war. He usually wears one or other, but at one event he wore both at once among lot of other medals. People were shocked as he's really fragile midget due to development problems by poison while his mother was pregnant with him. He even has a Cetagandan Order Of Merit, for service to his planet's (Barrayar's) former enemy, an award which a Cetegandan would literally kill for, and which seems a bit weird considering Miles's ancestors quite notably defeated Cetaganda bloodily.
  • The Supreme Custodian in Septimus Heap is depicted as this.


Live Action TV

  • The Benny Hill Show: in a sketch about a wheelchair race we see one of the participants pre-race talking with someone, shot from below. He's got a chest full of medals. He crosses his legs, at which time we see he's even got medals on the soles of his shoes.
  • The British DJ/comedian Kenny Everett used to have a character on his TV show who was a fire-breathing American General Ripper, frequently crashing into the sketch through a wall. He had massive shoulder pads on his uniform to allow him to show off the ludicrous number of medals he wore.
  • Star Trek the Original Series: when Captain Kirk is being courtmartialed, as part of his identification process the computer starts reading out a very long list of impressive-sounding medals he's won. The opposing side wants to cut it short because it's taking too long to list his achievements.
  • This is repeated in the Star Trek the Next Generation episode The Measure of a Man, as part of Picard's goal to show Data is a person. Somewhat interesting, both characters don't have that many awards (Kirk 7, Data 4), the problem comes from the fact that the machine reading them out does so SLOWLY.
    • For your information, images of Kirk and Data's awards (among others) can be found here.
  • Allo Allo has Captain Bertorelli (a type 3) who has three rows of large, showy, medals (and loads of gold braid):

 Bertorelli: The first row are for service in Abyssinia. The second row are for service in North Africa.

General Von Klinkerhoven: And the bottom row?

Bertorelli: They are for servicing Fiats!

  • NCIS: Gibbs has been awarded numerous medals and citations, however since he doesn't particularly care for them Tony has to keep track of them; he even gave away his Silver Star in one episode.
  • In The Andy Griffith Show, "A Medal for Opie", Opie has an Imagine Spot about winning a foot race, when receiving his award he already has numerous medals pinned to his shirt, so Andy turns him around and pins it on his back.


Music

  • According to the old variety song, My Great Big Brother Sylvest had "A row of forty medals on his chest." The lyric of the song is a series of ever taller tales about Sylvest's badassery.


Theatre

 (Enter the French Ambassador. You never saw so many medals)

French Soldiers: Ze French Ambassador!

Wintergreen: I still can't see him!


Video Games

  • Mass Effect: one of the characters claims that Anderson "could melt all his medals and make a life-sized statue of himself".
    • The presentation and names ("Council Legion of Merit", "Service Star") of the games' achievements suggests that they are actual awards presented to Shepard over the course of the game, which would mean a quite hefty medal case for him, too.
  • Two of the bosses in Bionic Commando Rearmed are generals with so many medals that they actually stop bullets, rendering them immune to attacks from the front. You have to either shoot them in the back or use another method of hurting them.
  • General Krukov in Red Alert 3 has a modest Soviet Officer uniform with one of two medals when we first see him in the prime universe (or for what the term Prime Universe means anymore). By the time he has adjusted to the Alternate Universe where the Soviets are winning the war, he looks more like Marshall Zhukov from the page image.


Western Animation


Real Life

  • During World War II, Americans who were stationed in Britain were asked by the locals about all the battles they fought and heroic actions they did. However, they had done nothing. The American military tends to give out medals for breathing. The UK military does not. Because of this the British public assumed that if you had so many medals, you must have done heroic things. So, actual UK military men with many battles and heroic actions would have far fewer medals then Americans who pushed papers for a few years and an American just out of basic training would look like they had fought battles.
    • There's also the confusion between medals awarded for merit, and service ribbons which are literally just a record of what campaigns or operations you've served in. Generals have lots of stuff on their chests because they're older and have long resumes. A low-ranking officer with lots of chest bling is either incredibly heroic or gets transferred a lot.
    • Gen. Patton was an interesting aversion in that he had a huge quantity of medals from his service with Gen. Pershing's expedition to Mexico, and his service in WWI and WWII, but he hated putting all of them on at once. There's supposedly only one picture, taken in his own backyard at the insistence of his wife, showing Patton with all his medals.
    • A legitimate American Type 1 from WWII is Audie Murphy, who earned every decoration for valor that America could grant, and was often described as America's most decorated soldier of that war. He was uncomfortable with the fame this brought him, but did believe that the Army was entitled to use him for promotional and recruiting purposes, so unlike Patton there's a fair number of pictures of him wearing his Chest of Medals.
  • NYC police officers have a huge number of various medals attached a bar that holds their badge on their chest. It's kind of ridiculous that you have trouble finding the badge among the giant square on their chest.
  • The typical Liberator-Father Of The Nation-Great Leader of a Banana Republic does this.
  • This was a very common trait of Soviet-era generals. Most of the Soviet high brass until the late Eighties were WWII veterans, and often held at least some small command, leading to significant level of them being already decorated back then. Add to it the Soviet practice to award decorations on the anniversaries (until the late Sixties battle decorations were used, later they've switched to the special "breathing" medals), and the regulation that the soldier must wear all his decorations, including campaign medals, service ribbons, qualification badges etc., on his formal parade uniform, and by the end of the third decade of service you'll end up with a walking jewelery store.
    • Most spectacular of them was Marshal Georgy Zhukov (currently the article image), said to be the most decorated officer in all Russian history, who did earn all his medals due to Four-Star Badass-worthy accomplishments not only against the Wehrmacht in the Great Patriotic War, but also against Japanese forces during the 1930s invasion of Mongolia. [3] Did we mention that he did all of this with a Soviet military that was more or less at its weakest in its entire 70 years of history, the ranks of its experienced officers (many of whom were WW 1 veterans) having been so devastated by Stalin's Great Purges in the '30s?
  • Then their Idi Amin who has dozens of medals that cover his chest, it would seem as though he awarded those to himself.
  • In the 1970s and 1980s, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev was the punchline of countless Soviet jokes ridiculing his love for medals, due to him being perhaps the most notorious Type 3 in the Soviet Union. He even awarded himself with the Order of Victory that should only be given to great WWII military leaders, despite his own modest WWII record — he was a regimental commissar, and later, when Political Officers were abolished, a simple colonel with quite an average career. Like Zhukov (see above), he had four Hero of the Soviet Union stars AND a star of the Hero of Socialist Labour, as well as dozens upon dozens of other decorations that he, to put it mildly, didn't entirely deserve and wore very prominently. After he died, his Order of Victory was specially posthumously revoked from him. Here are some of the gems:

 What would happen if a crocodile ate Brezhnev? The poor thing would be crapping medals for two weeks straight.

Yesterday, Moscow was devastated by an earthquake caused by Brezhnev's jacket with all his medals falling off a chair.

Brezhnev, after receiving his umpteenth medal: Dear comrades! Enemies of the state speculate that I have a soft spot for decorations. This is an outrageous lie! Last week, I declined the highest honour of Mauritania: a golden ring through the nose.

Notes

  1. Who do you think dragged the Great Purges-decimated Red Army from the brink of defeat against the Nazis' surprise invasion, after he beat the Japanese so soundly they gave up beforehand?
  2. Well, assuming at least one or two major wars broke out during said lifetime, and they participated in and survived it.
  3. Not the least of which is forcing Japan to stay away from Russia by leading the Russians alongside the Mongolians at Khalkhin Gol to beat the Japanese in 1939, and (through no actual intention of his own) convincing the Japanese generals that all of Russia's generals are as much of Four Star Badasses as he proved himself was against them.
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